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We want to realise inclusion, equality and gender equality in services for children, young people and families. We also want to promote these themes in their lives. But what do these concepts actually mean in this context? 

Participation and inclusion

The Finnish concept osallisuus refers to participation, inclusion and belonging. The concept is multidimensional and has different emphases in different contexts.  Participation does not in itself guarantee the experience of belonging, and the experience of belonging may also arise without active participation. When supporting participation and inclusion, it is important that we understand the meaning of genuine belonging and face people as individuals. In order to promote children’s young people’s and families’ participation and inclusion, we aim at strengthening their sense of belonging both in the society and communities, as well as in their own lives.  

Participation and inclusion  are a fundamental and human right for children and young people. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the child who is capable of forming own views shall have the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child. The views of the child should be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. The UNCRC considers all under 18-year-olds to be children. Other laws, such as the Constitution on Finland, the Basic Education Act, the Youth Act, the Child Welfare Act and the Act on Early Childhood Education and Care also define the inclusion of children and young people.  

Participation and inclusion are part of the families’ daily life. They also affect services and service development. In everyday encounters and services, it is essential to identify and consider issues that are important to children, young people and families. Participation and inclusion are important in the planning, development and assessment of services. Special attention should be paid to equal participation and the inclusion of vulnerable children, young people, and families with children. This vulnerability may stem from structural discrimination, for example, or be situation specific.     


Equality refers to the equal worth of all people. It means guaranteeing fundamental and human rights  for all, regardless of aspects related to the individual, such as gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, skin colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, language, religion or belief, opinion, state of health or disability.  

Socio-economic, cultural, and structural factors affect equality. In Finland, challenges to the equality of children and young people include poverty in families with children, intergenerational disadvantage, regional and educational inequality, and experiences of discrimination.  

Discrimination refers to shortcomings in equal treatment, and it manifests in various forms. Discrimination against children and young people includes bullying, racism, and exclusion from services due to disability or functional difficulty.  When promoting equality, three forms of discrimination should be considered: direct, indirect, and multiple.  

Direct discrimination refers to situations where a person is treated discriminatorily based on their personal characteristics or because they belong to a certain group. As direct discrimination is often clearly incompatible with the prohibition of discrimination laid down in legislation, it is easier to identify than other forms of discrimination. 

Indirect discrimination means that an apparently neutral rule, criterion, or practice puts someone at a disadvantage based on their personal characteristics. Structural racism and inaccessible facilities are examples of indirect discrimination.   

Multiple discrimination means being discriminated against on two or more grounds for discrimination. In order t avoid multiple discrimination,it is necessary to consider the different factors and grounds for discrimination that affect children, young people, and families simultaneously. 

Equality does not always mean treating everyone in the same manner; when promoting equality, it is important to consider theintersectional differences. Intersectionalityis a common concept: many characteristics affect the statuses and experiences of children, young people, and families simultaneously. The realisation of effective non-discrimination requires paying attention to the results of action and the potential need for positive action.  

Promoting equality involves readiness to act. For example, authorities and project actors must consider the effects of their decisions on children and young people in different circumstances. Development projects must assess whether their action supports the equality of outcomes and reduces the prevalence of racism and discrimination. Involving children and young people experiencing discrimination in the development of services is one practical way of promoting equality. Schools also play an important role, for example through human rights education. 

Gender equality

Gender equality refers to equal rights and opportunities for all regardless of gender, gender identity and gender expression. Equality also involves the allocation of power and resources. When it comes to gender equality, it is essential to consider gender diversity: the spectrum of personal experiences of gender, ways to express gender and gendered experiences.  

In addition to “formal” equality (i.e. equal rights and opportunities), the promotion of equality refers to substantive equality or equality of outcome, the realisation of which often requires targeted measures. It is important to pay attention to intersectional differences. Intersectionality refers to how one’s identity and status in society are simultaneously influenced by factors such as gender, age, ethnicity, and functional capacity.  

All age groups are affected by gender stereotypes and discrimination. Encountering children, young people, and families in an equal manner requires consideration of the gender perspective in all their services. Effective equality work can support the well-being of young people in sexual and gender minorities, promote equal parenting, reduce gender differences in education,andin the labour market, and combat gender-based violence. 
Equality can be promoted in the services of children, young people, and families in many ways. Our website contains information (in Finnish) on equality and non-discrimination plans for early childhood education and care and educational institutions, gender impact assessment, norm- and gender-conscious education, and how to take gender into consideration in communications. 

Lasten osallisuus (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.) (in Finnish) Finnish National Agency for Education 
Child strategy (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.) 
Lapsen oikeudet – Osallisuus ja osallistuminen (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.) (in Finnish) Child strategy 
Migration and cultural diversity (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.), Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare 
Osallisuuden edistäjän opas (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.) (A guide for promoters of inclusion, abstract available in English)Project to co-ordinate the promotion of social inclusion (Sokra) and the European Social Fund’s development of inclusion projects 2014–2023  
Gender equality (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.)Centre for Gender Equality Information, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare 
Tasa-arvosanasto (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.)  (in Finnish), Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare 
Ombudsman for Equality (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.) 
The right of the child to be heard (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.) General Comment no. 12 by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child 
Laura Lundy (2007): ‘Voice is not enough: conceptualising Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 
Mitä osallisuus on? (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.) (in Finnish) Nuoret ja osallisuus,Osallisuuden osaamiskeskus (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.), Ministry of Justice 
Equality planning (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.), Non-discrimination Ombudsman 
Yhdenvertaisuus (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.)  ja syrjinnän kielto (Vieraile ulkoisella sivustolla. Linkki avautuu uuteen välilehteen.) (in Finnish), the Lapsen oikeudet website